CAVEAT EMPTOR: DON’T BECOME A VICTIM TO PREDATORS


Novice authors are often desperate to sell their books. Desperation leads to mistakes.

Assessing your talent as an author before you have been published is a very subjective experience. Inexperienced authors tend to believe that the quality of their writing is far better than it actually is. When an alleged agent or publisher tells us that our book is wonderful and that it deserves to be published, our unbounded joy may easily obscure our need for clear logic. We become our own worst enemy.

There may be more predators lurking in the dark corners of the writing and publishing world than there are in any other industry. No required education or certification process separates outstanding professional editors, agents and publishers from villains. Either you find the villain before you sign a contract, or they make easy money from you in return for… nothing.

Here’s the bottom line. Do not take compliments too highly from someone calling themselves a successful agent. The predators’ sugary sweetness is designed to convince you to play by their rules because they “will make you a famous, wealthy author.” Alleged agents may tell you who to pay to have your book properly edited. They will convince you that they will sell your book to the very best publishing houses – as they do with many new authors. They may even ask you to pay them for some kind of service before you have a publishing contract. A few hours of sincere research will uncover all types of fraudulent agents and scam agencies.

Editors are paid by you after you vet them, hire them and you are satisfied with their work. Publishers and literary agents will charge you NOTHING – EVER. The publisher will take a share from the book’s sales and pay you a royalty. Thus the motivation to sell is highest with the publisher, as sold books constitute their only opportunity to earn back your advance and gain a profit.

Agents earn money after you have signed the publishing contract by taking a share of your advance or royalty payments. If an agent asks you for money up-front, the little hairs on the back of your neck should stick up. Stay in control. Don’t be fooled by false promises or misled by agents who shower you with false glory – “if you will only pay my standard pre-publication fee.” They will mislead you by saying that they need a little money up front to conduct research, to pay for editing, or to pay a “reading fee” to a publisher’s acquisition editor. None of this is true.

YOU are responsible for fact-checking every alleged editor, agent and publisher. Never discuss an agency contract until after you have completed and evaluated a long and thorough investigation. The same process applies to researching editors. How can a novice author conduct such an investigation? Read on.

The two iconic resources for all things related to professional services in editing, agency representation and publishing are: WRITER BEWARE (http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/) and PREDATORS & EDITORS (http://pred-ed.com/). Bookmark the URLs. Use them regularly. You’ll be amazed with the volume and quality of their information, especially if you are a new author. If an editor, agent or publisher is on a “bad” list with either of those sites – BEWARE; approach with sincere caution.

You might or might not be the next Stephen King. But you can make sure that you’re not the next victim of predators masquerading as editors, agents or publishers.

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Fraud Artists: Scamming Authors


We read every day about one company or another scamming novice authors, stealing their hard-earned money for a vague promise and delivering nothing in return except misery. Often the new author who pays the most to an alleged “publisher’ can least afford to lose that money. Yet, every day, hundreds, if not thousands of novice authors fall for these wolves in publisher clothing, leading to anger, resentment and depression.

Almost everyone has heard of the publisher Penguin. They are a traditional publisher with a lengthy track record of success. Fewer authors understand that Penguin has a self-publishing business, called “Author Solutions.” Chances are, however, that someone reading this right now has been a victim of illegal business practices with Author Solutions.

You see, Author Solutions has “dozens of self-publishing brands including iUniverse, AuthorHouse, Xlibris, Trafford and Palibrio as well as media companies FuseFrame, PitchFest, Author Learning Center and BookTango. Author Solutions also operates Archway, a self-publishing imprint that is actually owned by Simon & Schuster. Furthermore, Penguin’s Indian self-publishing brand, Partridge, is another imprint run by Author Solutions.”

Three authors, in cooperation with Publishers Weekly, have started a class action suit worth over $5 million against Author Solutions alleging that Author Solutions misrepresents itself, luring authors in with claims that its books can compete with “traditional publishers,” offering “greater speed, higher royalties, and more control for its authors.” The company then profits from “fraudulent” practices, the complaint alleges, including “delaying publication, publishing manuscripts with errors to generate fees, and selling worthless services, or services that fail to accomplish what they promise.” The suit also alleges that Author Solutions fails to pay its authors the royalties they are due. Their attorneys are asking other writers who have “self-published with Author Solutions or any of its brands and have been the victim of deceptive practices” to come forward.

If this is not enough to give authors pause for thought before plunking down hundreds, or more likely thousands, of dollars, I don’t know what is. While a sucker is born every day, it’s hard to comprehend how someone who has never before won a writing award, who has never before been published for anything, could somehow come to believe that a “publisher” will suddenly bend over backwards to put their name on a book in print. But these sweet-talking fraudulent publishers do it successfully every day. Caveat Emptor! Such bad business practices presume that by flattering an unknown never-before-published author, a signed contract and check will soon be in the mail. And the are right!

By the tens of thousands, new authors are falling over each other to pay on average at least $1,000 to a publisher they have never before heard of, with the expectation that they will soon become the next Tom Clancy or Stephen King. Of course, they do not and they could have used their $1,000 for so many genuine projects and with real, not fraudulent companies.

With so many imprints, Author Solutions has tricked authors into thinking they have dozens of choices. In reality, however, the parent company is just slapping up half a dozen different logos, renaming packages, and selling the same grossly overpriced services to all of their customers no matter which brand ends up on the cover. They are accused of launching supposedly unbiased, purely informational comparison websites to help customers pick the self-publishing company that’s right for them, except all clicks lead back to Author Solutions brands. How many ways can you spell “despicable?”

As more and more of Author Solutions victims discover the class-action suit, there is little doubt that the litigation will rise dramatically in size and scope. Author Solutions claims to have worked with 170,000 authors. It won’t be long before scammed authors take their place in a long winding litigation queue of anger and resentment.

It is uncertain whether or if Penguin’s name as a publisher will be permanently tarnished by the devastation wrought by its subsidiary, Author Solutions. And it seems impossible that Penguin leadership was not aware of this fraud when they purchased Author Solutions. Had they nipped this fraud in the bud immediately, fewer authors would have had their money stolen in the name of “publishing” and that they could have much more easily contained the damage and the size of a likely award to the plaintiffs.

These scammers believe that they can easily get away with suckering people into believing that they can be a “real author.” And, sadly, they can most of the time. Here’s hoping that the Penguin/Author Solutions litigation will garner headlines for many years. Because otherwise how can we put an end to scam artists in the publishing industry? It’s now easy to understand why big business hates government regulation. Regulation and laws are the only way to prevent the wolf from eating the sheep with no fear of monetary loss and bad press. So, if you have been “published” by any of the Author House companies (see paragraph two), please contact the authors’ lawyers, Giskan, Solotaroff, Anderson & Stewart here. And if you are thinking about being published by any of these “self-publishing companies,” please be careful with your investment.

Based upon an article on Forbes Magazine, “Penguin And Author Solutions Sued For Deceptive Practices,” 5/7/13. http://www.forbes.com/sites/suwcharmananderson/2013/05/07/penguin-author-solutions-sued-for-deceptive-practices/.

Book Marketing 101


Book Marketing 101. Everything you need to know about author marketing!